April 21, 2012

Pediatrician Howard Whiteside remembered for his caring, dedication

As a child in England, Howard Whiteside knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.

As a child in England, Howard Whiteside knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“He knew he wanted to be a doctor when he was 4 years old,” said his wife, Dana Whiteside.

After graduating from medical school, Dr. Whiteside went on to become a fixture in pediatric medicine in Wichita. After turning 65 recently, he made no effort to cut back on his practice.

“He said he was going to be 90 years old before retired,” Dana Whiteside said. “He loved his job. He loved being a doctor.”

It was a combination of Dr. Whiteside’s dedication to medicine and to exercise that prompted him to go out for a run near his Kechi home at about 10:15 p.m. Thursday. The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office said he was a few hundred yards from his house when he was run over and killed by a hit-and-run driver.

The driver, a 23-year-old Wichita man, turned himself in the following morning, and prosecutors are expected to decide next week whether charges will be filed.

Dana Whiteside said her husband often worked long hours, and it wasn’t uncommon for him to go running after dark.

“He’s been doing that for the past 25 years, and nothing has ever happened,” she said.

Dana Whiteside said she expected her husband to be gone less than an hour that night before returning home to work on patients’ charts. When he didn’t get back on time, she said, she called his cellphone and sent a short text message: “Where are you? It’s after 12.” He never responded.

Dana Whiteside remembered that her husband was planning to run in next month’s River Run at the Wichita River Festival. She thought he might be jogging a few extra miles. But by 1 a.m., she said, she was worried enough to get in her car and drive along her husband’s normal jogging route. There was no sign of him. At 2 a.m. she said, she called 911 and said her husband was late getting home. It was around 3 a.m., she said, when she heard sirens and saw flashing lights. Not long after, two officers came to her door with the news.

Denise Wadas was one of those who were devastated by the news of Dr. Whiteside’s death. Wadas said she met Dr. Whiteside 21 years ago when her son was born with spina bifida. Dr. Whiteside, who ran the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Joseph Medical Center at the time, remained her son’s primary care physician. Wadas said Dr. Whiteside helped guide her son through 42 surgeries and many brushes with death.

“Through the years, he’s been our main guy – our go-to guy,” she said. “He never cared if you needed to talk to him after hours. There was always a way to get a hold of him. As much time as you felt you needed, he would give it to you.”

She said she often found Dr. Whiteside in his office after hours.

“I just can’t tell your how genuinely caring he was as physician.”

Dinell Stuckey, whose 16-year-old daughter has cerebral palsy, said Dr. Whiteside was the only doctor she’s ever met who was comfortable working with children with disabilities. She said she doesn’t know where she’ll find a replacement for him.

“Those are not going to be easy shoes to fill, that’s for sure,” she said. “It’s absolutely a huge loss.”

Dana Whiteside said that when he wasn’t working, her husband was equally devoted to his 12 children and 10 grandchildren.

“He was just an amazing person,” she said.

A memorial service for Dr. Whiteside is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at Eastside Community Church, 14242 E. 21st St North.

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